I’ve finally got around to sorting through my coast-to-coast photos and have posted two galleries:
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A great walk. If you enjoy walking then this long distance path should definitely be on your list of walks to do.
We did the walk over 13 days, breaking the Rosthwaite to Patterdale leg into two by staying at Grasmere, roughly the half-way point between the two and would certainly recommend doing this to allow more time to enjoy the Lake district section and try the alternative high-level routes.
Although tired after some of the longer days, I found the walk quite manageable over the 13 days. The stages we did were as follows (all distances are approximate only):
1. St. Bees to Ennerdale Bridge – 14 miles
2. Ennerdale Bridge to Rosthwaite – 14.5 miles
3. Rosthwaite to Grasmere – 9 miles
4. Grasmere to Patterdale – 8.5 miles
5. Patterdale to Shap – 16 miles
6. Shap to Kirkby Stephen – 21 miles
7. Kirkby Stephen to Keld – 12 miles
8. Keld to Marrick – 15 miles
9. Marrick to Catterick Bridge – 10.5 miles
10. Catterick Bridge to Osmotherly – 21.5 miles
11. Osmotherly to Blakey Ridge – 19 miles
12. Blakey Ridge to Littlebeck – 17 miles
13. Littlebeck to Robin Hoods Bay – 12 miles
Getting there and away:
The walk traditionally starts at St Bees. Access to St Bees is pretty easy via train from Carlisle station which is on the West Coast Main Line – there are regular Virgin trains from London Euston to Carlisle. For example, during the week the 0958 from Euston will get you to St Bees at 1534 (with a 35 min wait at Carlisle); the 1113 will get you there at 1749 (but this requires a one hour wait at Carlisle).
If you are using a baggage service (as we did – see below) they may offer parking at a central point and transport to the start and from the end. Coast to Coast Packhorse offer parking at Kirkby Stephen and minibus transport to the start and finish points.
I had hired a car a week earlier so arranged a one-way hire (an extra ₤40), dropping off in Carlisle (I used National Car – I’ve used them a few times now with no complaints). The walk to the station from the garage was around 15 minutes.
Access to/from Robin Hoods Bay is a little more tricky if you are not using the services of Packhorse or equivalent. The nearest train stations are Scarborough or Whitby, both of which link to the East Coast Main Line. There’s a bus service, but it takes a while to make the trip. Probably the easiest option is to hire a mini-cab. We did this and got a lift into Scarborough (₤25) where we hired a car (I’d prefer to catch the train but the cost of one day car hire + petrol + one-way fee was less than two train tickets).
This can be a bit tricky – some places do not have an over abundance of options, and the need to organise 12-15 consecutive nights, each in a different location, adds to the degree of difficulty. Nonetheless we met a few people on the trail who had organised their accommodation themselves without too many problems.
The other option, which we used as I didn’t particularly feel like trying to organise lodgings long-distance from Oz, is to use an accommodation booking service. I used the aforementioned Coast to Coast Packhorse, and have no complaints about the rooms they booked which were a good mixture of pubs/B&B’s, ranging from acceptable to excellent.
Of course, you can always camp – we met some walkers doing this, but as I didn’t camp I can’t really say much about how easy or hard it is to find acceptable campsites. Most of the walk is through cultivated land so wild camping is out of the question.
Maybe I’m going soft as I get older, but the thought of humping a full rucksack for two weeks didn’t attract me at all. As a result, I arranged for our bags to be transferred each day, thus requiring only a day pack while walking.
Again we used Coast to Coast Packhorse and had a very good experience – they were quietly efficient and our bags were always at our lodgings when we arrived. Other options for both baggage transfer and accommodation booking are Sherpavan, Mickledore Travel, Contours Walking Holidays and Discovery Travel – I haven’t used any of these however, so can’t comment on their service.
I used the two maps from Harvey that cover the whole route and would recommend them. They were generally pretty good – although not up to Ordnance Survey map standards. This is a moot point though as the only other choice is to carry a case full of OS maps. They claim to be waterproof, but we didn’t get enough rain to test this out, and personally I’d carry a waterproof map case.
For the Lake District sections I also carried the two relevant OS maps (OL 4 and 5) as the extra detail offered is useful especially if you try the alternative high-level routes and/or are stuck in bad weather. They also provide a bit more context, if you have good weather and views and are wondering what you are looking at.
In addition to the maps we also carried the Trailblazer Coast to coast path guidebook by Harry Stedman. This was good for a bit of background as well as assisting in those places where the map wasn’t entirely clear (generally due to the scale of 1:40,000 being a bit too large for walkers – the OL 1:25,000 scale is much better). The hand drawn maps did leave a little to be desired in some instances (note we used an earlier edition – they may have improved in the latest edition).
The original guide by Wainwright is probably best for inspiration before you go and reflection after you return – the route information is going to be a bit dated now.
Gear is very much a personal choice so for what it’s worth, I’ll simply list what I carried in my daypack, which was a Berghaus 64Zero, a very simple and light daypack:
* Beanie and/or sun-hat
* Thin long-sleeved top
* Windstopper Soft-Shell jacket (by Paddy Pallin – the current model is the Catalyst)
* Lightweight Gore-Tex waterproof jacket (Berghaus Extreme Light)
* Gore-tex waterproof over trousers (by Paddy Pallin)
In addition I carried a vacuum flask for a morning cuppa + water and food for lunch and some sunscreen. Round my neck was a Nikon D40 SLR camera fitted with Nikon’s superb 18-200mm DX VR lens.
All of this gear was used at some point during the walk. The soft-shell jacket and waterproof jacket were used quite frequently; the gloves got used once (up on Helvellyn).
I wore Brasher Supalite boots on days 2-5, the other days I wore a pair of Scarpa Enigma XCR shoes which also served as a pair of casual shoes for the rest of my holiday. I could have easily survived with just the Scarpa shoes, which come highly recommended. The extra ankle support and sturdiness of the Brasher boots was helpful during the Lakes sections but not essential for me – your mileage may vary.
I intend to write a bit more about the gear in future posts.
The final day! An easy walk through a wood then across the moors, with an early lunch at the Arnciffe Arms in Hawsker before a nice walk along the coast and then a steep descent down the cobblestone streets of Robin Hood’s Bay.
The first section goes through Littlebeck Wood and down to Falling Foss waterfall. The path then follows May Beck before a bit of road walking and then across the final moors of the walk to Hawsker. From here the path drops down through a caravan park to join the Cleveland Way on the cliffs above the North Sea. An enjoyable walk along the cliffs south to Robin Hood’s Bay completes the walk.
As expected, arriving at Robin Hood’s Bay was a bit of an anti-climax. But still, a great feeling of accomplishment and a terrific walk. Following tradition we stuck our boots in the sea, and I tossed in the pebble I’d carried from St Bees. We then retired for a truly well-earned beer.
(Total distance approx. 12 miles)
Almost there…just two days to go. This was another pleasant if rather grey day, we got the first (and only) real rain for the entire walk, it bucketed down not long after we left Blakey Ridge.
The route starts with a bit of a road bash across the moors – there wasn’t much traffic thankfully – and then follows a vehicular track into Glaisdale. From here there was a very muddy section through East Arncliff Wood before entering Egton Bridge. A short walk then leads into Grosmont on the North Yorkshire Moors Railway, with plenty of steam trains operating to keep both young and old enthusiasts happy.
A steep climb afterwards before levelling out and providing the first views of the east coast and north sea, with a fine prospect down towards Whitby. After this, a short walk downhill into Littlebeck. We didn’t go right down into the village as we were staying at Intake Farm, along with another seven c2c’ers making for a packed dining table that night.
(Total distance approx. 17 miles)
A great day, especially after the boredom of the previous day. Great views from the edge of the moors across the moors and valleys, particularly fine views across to Roseberry Topping, and Cook’s monument was also visible. The moors were quite bleak, but I like this. The heather was brown but will explode into purple during Autumn – this area protects the largest expanse of heather moorland in Europe.
From Osmotherly, rather than tracking back to Arncliffe Wood to meet the official c2c track, we took a slightly different route along the road that leads north out of Osmotherly, past the Cod Beck reservoir, eventually picking up the official path as it crosses this road and enters Clain Wood. If staying in Osmotherly, this variation can be recommended.
The path follows the high ground for most of the rest of the day with continual good views if the weather allows. The Lord Stones cafe can be recommended as a good spot for morning tea or an early lunch.
The final part of the day, along a disused railway alignment, did start to drag towards the end – moors very bleak at this point and the weather had become very dark and grey, threatening to rain although it never did (that would come tomorrow). Thankfully, Blakey provided both an excellent B&B, with magnificent views from its en-suite room across the moors, and a lovely old pub where I had a nice curry (actually that’s all Blakey is, a pub and a B&B).
(Total distance approx. 19 miles)
A very long day of over 21 miles, and the most boring of the walk – an endless series of roads, tracks and footpaths through fields. Also included a particularly unattractive but mercifully brief section along the A167, and a dangerous crossing of the A19. To top it off, the pub at Danby Wiske was shut, and there were no other options for lunch.
It was a relief to enter the Arncliffe woods and the final part of the walk with the promise of a more interesting route over the last few days.
We stayed just off the path in Osmotherly, an attractive little village at the edge of the North York Moors National Park. Some people break this stage into two, but I was very pleased to get it over with in one hit.
(Total distance approx. 21.5 miles)
The final day of the Yorkshire Dales, before reaching the very attractive market town of Richmond.
This was a relatively short and undemanding day. Overall, I’d describe it as ‘pleasant’, mainly field walking but some good views and surroundings; there was a nice spot underneath Applegarth Scar to stop for a morning cuppa. Lunch we had in Richmond, we also had a look around the castle as we had plenty of time.
Rather than stay in Richmond, we walked on to St Giles farm near Catterick Bridge to reduce the mileage for the following day. There we had an enjoyable dinner, cooked by our hosts, with a couple doing the c2c and also staying at the farm.
(Total distance approx. 10.5 miles)
A lovely day above Swaledale with classic Yorkshire countryside – moors, dales, drystone walls and barns.
James Herriot’s Yorkshire, a pictorial book authored by the late English vet many years ago and with photos by Derry Brabbs (who subsequently went on to take the photos for many books produced with Alfred Wainwright) gives a very good overview of this area. He calls Swaledale “the most beautiful part of England”; at the risk of being a traitor to my county of birth I’m not sure I’d go quite that far, but it is undeniably attractive. Herriott also describes, in the “Youth Hostels” chapter of the book, a walk that visits Keld, where he stayed at the Keld Lodge (then a Youth Hostel) and then continues along the current c2c route past Crackpot Hall, a former shooting lodge, and the Swinner Gill Lead Mines through to Melbecks Moor, at which point he turns to Gunnerside and eventually reaches Reeth.
At Melbecks Moor we continued east across the top of the moors and suddenly found ourselves joined by many others – but runners not walkers – it being the day of the Swaledale Marathon, and when we reached Reeth it was packed with runners recuperating in the various pubs which were also filled with spectators and supporters.
Because of the marathon, Reeth’s accomodations were fully booked, so we continued on to a small village called Marrick for the evening.
(Total distance approx. 15 miles)
Entering the final part of Cumbria and walking into the Yorkshire Dales National Park provided for a more interesting day today. Nice views and lovely weather again.
The path cuts east from Kirkby Stephen to Hartley and then starts to climb slowly, first on a road that passes a large quarry and eventually along a vehicular track. As it enters moorland the track starts to climb quite steeply. We took a quick rest before tackling this last section up to Nine Standards Rigg and a farmer who was loading a couple of sheep into a trailer being towed by his quad bike asked with a smile on his face whether we’d like to hop in with the sheep for a lift to the top!
The origin of the Nine Standards (nine stone cairns) is not known. They do provide an excellent spot for an early lunch and there are very good views in all directions. From here the path traverses the open moorland until it reaches Ravenseat, where it’s a pleasant walk by the side of the beck into Keld, which is the half-way point of the walk. The path over the moors changes depending on the month to try and control erosion (of which there was significant evidence); this part was enjoyable in fine weather but would be trying in mist.
We arrived in Keld to find that our accommodations were the recently opened Keld Lodge (originally a shooter’s lodge). There was good beer on tap and a nice lounge area, where we had an enjoyable evening talking to other c2c’ers who were staying there – as far as I could tell, everyone there was doing the walk, including a handful who were escaping the midges at the campsite.
(Total distance approx. 12 miles)
This was not a particularly interesting day and a bit of a slog at around 21 miles – it’s basically the link between the Lakes and the Yorkshire Dales and there was a fair amount of road bashing and field walking.
We were staying right at the bottom end of Shap, so rather than walking back up the main road, we took a short cut and met the official path just as it crosses over the M6. From here the path leads by a working quarry which was blasting the morning we passed.
The way improves from this point, travelling through moorland and very quiet once you are away from the quarry and the motorway. The middle part of the walk was a fairly tedious succession of roads and field paths, but it improved towards the end of the day as the path went through Smardale with good views of the impressive Smardalegill viaduct, before again entering another series of fields for the last pull into Kirkby Stephen.
At Kirkby Stephen we had another good B&B and an excellent dinner at the local Chinese, which was a welcome change from pub grub.
(Total distance approx. 21 miles)